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  1. #1
    Hot For Teacher M.C.'s Avatar
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    07.17.17 @ 03:12 PM
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    Default A Different Cafe Wha? Perspective: Mine

    [Longish alert]

    I too was at the Café Wha? show Thursday night, and I’m still coming down from it. To the consternation of many, this was mainly a press and entertainment industry show. And I was with the former.

    But on that night, I was first a Van Halen fan and second a journalist.

    Like many of you, I’ve been sharing the ups and downs that have followed this soap opera forever. While in college I was on the old mailing list and still proudly wear my W.D.F.A. shirt that we had made up to pledge our allegiance to this band. I waited out the delivery of the UN-CDs, bitching about Dan Shaner and his lack of timeliness like everyone else who ponied up the cash for a bunch of music most of us hadn’t heard.

    Counting down the 1996 VMA appearance with two of my best friends and fellow VH-lovers as we threw a mini VMA-watch to see it unfold was unforgettable. On a chilly October morning in October of the next year, the three of us took a bus up from Philly overnight so that we could meet Dave when he did Howard Stern that morning. All we wanted to do was shake his hand and thank him for the music, but he was insistent on signing anything we had. There were the typical douche-bags with guitars and all six albums to be signed after his appearance, but he knew who the real fans were and went out of his way to talk to us. He ended it by saying, “You guys made my day.” Jaw-dropping moment.

    There was the face-palm moment when Gary Cherone became the new singer, but was there with the rest of the mailing list members who were granted backstage access for the first leg of that tour, meeting up with the band for the briefest of moments.

    I caught the last tour three times, and have written about the group so many times for a column I do for a newspaper outside of Philly that it has at times been in danger of being a printed version of the VHND.

    So when the Café Wha? show was announced last week, I was on it. Over the years I’ve developed enough of a professional relationship with Janie so that she knows who I am. Unfortunately, she told me on Tuesday, the list for the show was a capacity but she would let me know if a spot opened up. I figured there was no chance, but decided to hit her up again on Wednesday to see if there was any chance.

    Nada – didn’t even hear back.

    Come Thursday, I planned on settling in and refreshing the message board to see how the show went down. But at about 1:20pm, I got an e-mail from Janie asking me if I was on assignment to cover the show. I told her I was and with who and she said those fateful words, “OK, I’ll see you tonight my friend.”

    At this point, everything started moving really fast, the spinning in my head at the top of the list. I live in Boston now, and I was going to have to make some quick, rational decisions, especially since I was downtown, dressed like a stockbroker and not very rock and roll. I jumped the next orange line T home, changed out of the stiff duds, threw a bunch of shit in my backpack (laptop, camera, recorder, etc.) and busted it down to Back Bay station where I had an Acela waiting for me at 3:20pm. Janie had told me doors were at 7pm and to please arrive early. Acela got in at 6:55pm and I was at Café Wha? by 7:15pm.

    As James noted, the streets were packed and the tiny club was quickly filling up. A waitress tried to seat me against one of the walls with a side view of the stage, but after two minutes I couldn’t sit still and decided to check out the space. Turns out there wasn’t much to see. No bar, just wall to wall people. I made a conscious decision not to drink because I wanted to take this experience in a soberly as possible. Plus, I was on a tight deadline.

    Rolling Stone’s David Fricke and Joe Levy were there. I ad actually met Fricke a few months prior in a hotel lobby in Iceland. He said he wasn’t at the show to cover it, but was there because, “It’s Van Halen!” Bumped into Eddie Trunk who I had interviewed when his book came out last year, and he was predictably excited as well. He’s pretty much the genuine deal that you see on television, just a big fan like the rest of us.

    There is absolutely ZERO reception in Café Wha? and I had to go up onto the street to send a text. That’s where I ran into Janie, who is absolutely stunning in person and really short. I thanked her for getting me in and made random small talk. She’s a very cool chick.

    Getting close to 8pm, I decided that screw it, I was going to get right up to the stage. I can’t stress how small the place is though, and the aisle between the tables next to the stage is super-slim. I positioned myself right in front of Dave’s mic, and people soon filled in behind me, making it even tighter. Some guy from Esquire magazine kept bumping into me and apologizing, but he was getting bumped too. I told him, “Dude, you could knife me in the back right now and I wouldn’t care – this is going to be awesome.”

    Cut to around 8:15pm and I get bumped again from behind and dude puts his hand on my shoulder and says he’s sorry. I turn around and tell him no worries – and I’m staring right at Alex Van Halen. So I say what comes naturally, “Holy shit – Alex Van Halen,” and he says “Hey.” Eddie is behind him and I basically right in front of me as well and I say, “Eddie – what’s up?” He said, “Man, we’re just trying to figure out how to get on that stage!” I say, “Just get on up right here!” Dave was behind Wolfie who was behind Eddie and he says, “Yeah, fellas, fellas, let’s just go through here and get onstage.”

    As full as the club was, there really weren’t many people who knew that it was Van Halen. The guys were all dressed down, and they just kind of snuck up on everyone. By the time they got onstage, people hadn’t had enough time to process it was them. I actually help Alex and Eddie up onto the stage (I cannot believe I just typed that), said “Hey Wolf” who was all, “Hey, what’s going on man?” and Dave shook my hand and gave me a wink and a smile as I let him through.

    The boys ripped into YRGM and it all started to sink in. Dave was inches from my face singing the lyrics to songs I had committed to memory. And during “Panama,” during the breakdown, Dave started asking for a drink. Finally a waitress came through the crowd behind me, but was too small to fully push through. Dave saw the drink but couldn’t reach it, I turned to her, she asked if I could get it, and I reached up and grabbed the tall glass off the server’s tray and handed it to Dave, who gave me a wink and a smile as he said thank you. It spilled on my hand, and smelled of Jack Daniels. The guy from Esquire and a few other people were grabbing me and screaming, “You just handed Diamond Dave a drink!!”

    The rest you pretty much know, and here is the take I did for the Boston Phoenix of the show itself. I didn’t take much video or many photos, because I wanted to take it all in and not look back on shitty self-taken footage at a later date. There was a tiny Asian guy next to me who didn’t put down his camera once. He screamed out all the songs and I could tell he was a fan, but keeping the camera out the entire time wasn’t for me.

    I got to see the interaction between all the bandmembers, especially Eddie and Dave, and was paying super close attention to their mannerisms. When Dave was telling that long-winded story before “Somebody Get Me a Doctor” and Wolfie hit a note on his bass, Dave said, “Hold up a second there junior.” I immediately thought they were going to break-up right then and there. How can Dave admonish Ed’s kid right in front of him? But Ed smiled at Wolfie, a mischevious one, and then played a few notes of his own. Dave then realized he was dragging it out and quickly wrapped it up, but was smiling about that too. And like he said later in the show, “You can’t fake it up here.” And every smile and laugh seemed genuine as could be.

    Other than that, there was some fun celeb spotting, McEnroe, Fallon, but most of the audience, press, media or not, all seemed to be into it. There was one jerk. A self-entitled prick who I once was a fan of his writing. It was Chuck Klosterman, and he was content to hang back and talk all night to people, barely focusing on the show. I don’t know if he was wasted or what, but after the show he was obnoxious as all hell, and telling anyone who would listen, “I didn’t even know they were doing a show! They contacted me and asked me to go and I said why not?”

    I could’ve punched him in the face.

    He’s the type of media many of you feared would be there, but rest assured, I think most were more like you and me.

  2. #2
    Atomic Punk Raldo's Avatar
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    12.16.17 @ 03:10 AM
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    Very cool!!!
    Remember the Heroes - 9/11/01

    In 2012, the phoenix has risen!!

    "High speed, low drag."

    "Look at all the people here tonight!!!" - 10/5/07, 5/20/08 Mohegan Sun

    Congratulations to Van Halen as part of the Class of 2007 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!

    Cinco de Cabo @ Foxwoods: "A giant party with live music" - S. Hagar

    got tequila?

    http://keepitaliveforever.com

  3. #3
    Eruption DiveBomb's Avatar
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    05.11.15 @ 11:56 AM
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    Default

    Man, what a freaking trip!!! I would have loved to be in your shoes. It just doesn't get any better than that. Thanks for sharing.
    Van Halen will rock your face off!

  4. #4
    Little Dreamer
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    02.07.12 @ 01:54 PM
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    Default

    Very fun to read your post! Thanks. Glad to hear Eddie took Dave's long-winded monologue in stride. When I saw Dave rambling on and on (via the YouTube vids), telling his personal stories as if he had forgotten the freakin' band was waiting behind him, as if it was his own solo act, it really hit home that Roth has narcissistic personality disorder. A very real disorder. I've worked with people like him and it can be a nightmare; half charismatic and brilliant, yet completely self-centered and often cruel. No wonder Eddie was driven nuts by him. Anyway - I digress! Very cool to hear about your interactions with the mighty VH!

  5. #5
    Little Dreamer
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    08.01.12 @ 07:21 PM
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    Default

    Nice. There is always at least one idiot in the crowd.

  6. #6
    Sinner's Swing! AJW's Avatar
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    12.12.17 @ 03:30 AM
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    Default

    Thanks for sharing. That asian dude was annoying as hell after a while but hey it's his camera. What are you going to do?

  7. #7
    Sinner's Swing! jimmy's Avatar
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    04.29.16 @ 07:05 AM
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    Default

    Attention whore, but I appreciate the clips. I shoot a lot of stuff more an indy band from AZ..(over 100 clips) ..I do my best to make the stuff look and sound good...but I never remember turning the camera on myself....but whatever...
    Actually I think most of us are Dave, Sam, and Mike fans. There's just a small group of people who have strange allegiances and like to get into petty pissing contests that I can't believe everyone on this site isn't bored of. - Brett

  8. #8
    Hot For Teacher M.C.'s Avatar
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    07.17.17 @ 03:12 PM
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by jimmy View Post
    Attention whore, but I appreciate the clips. I shoot a lot of stuff more an indy band from AZ..(over 100 clips) ..I do my best to make the stuff look and sound good...but I never remember turning the camera on myself....but whatever...
    If you're the same dude, look at your footage from "Everybody Wants Some," where you turn the camera on yourself to let us know that you too like the way the line runs up the back of the stocking.

  9. #9
    Eruption distortion9's Avatar
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    01.29.12 @ 02:17 PM
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    Default

    Told ya that Asian guy was a dick....lol.

  10. #10
    Hot For Teacher
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    08.19.12 @ 08:35 AM
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    Klosterman actually wrote a pretty shining review of the show over at Grantland.com. Which I thought was cool.

    Nice writeup though from you . . . a great fan's perspective. Always awesome to read reviews from people who truly appreciate and understand the ups and downs of being a Van Halen fan.

  11. #11
    Hot For Teacher
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    06.05.16 @ 05:54 PM
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by M.C. View Post
    here is the take I did for the Boston Phoenix of the show itself. I didn’t take much video or many photos, because I wanted to take it all in and not look back on shitty self-taken footage at a later date. There was a tiny Asian guy next to me who didn’t put down his camera once. He screamed out all the songs and I could tell he was a fan, but keeping the camera out the entire time wasn’t for me.
    Great article (at the link)! The worst thing about the Asian guy is that he kept turning the camera on himself -- either to announce the song title or sing along.

    I was also right in front of DLR's mic, so you and I were probably pretty close to each other there.
    "Heels up to her face. Shimmy shimmy cocoa puffs"

  12. #12
    Eruption 95Crash's Avatar
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    12.16.17 @ 08:16 PM
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    Default

    Good stuff, M.C.

    "We decided to do everything you'd expect, but make it high speed, low drag."
    -- DLR (8-13-07)

  13. #13
    Good Enough
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    05.15.16 @ 10:48 PM
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    Default

    I was totally digging the tale until the end bit about Klosterman. The dude's a brilliant writer - funny as hell. Sad to read that he was a douche at the show.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing your perspective, Michael. I'm off to read your column now.

  14. #14
    Hot For Teacher M.C.'s Avatar
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    07.17.17 @ 03:12 PM
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    Quote Originally Posted by ToddE View Post
    I was totally digging the tale until the end bit about Klosterman. The dude's a brilliant writer - funny as hell. Sad to read that he was a douche at the show.
    I've been a fan of his since Fagro Rock City. I feel like he's gotten a bit full of himself in recent years, but was definitely disappointed at his persona in person.

  15. #15
    Romeo Delight unchained85's Avatar
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    03.01.17 @ 11:04 AM
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    Default

    Cool story! I am so pumped for this album!

 

 

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